Continuing our advent series, we look at Mary's role in the coming of Jesus - how she fulfills Old Testament prophecy; how she is a servant of the LORD; and her prayer to the LORD that we know as the Magnificat. We also look at how this season is a season full of hope and rejoicing.
As we begin our series on Advent, anticipating the coming King, we consider what it would feel like to be in a time and place marked by hopelessness and longing. With Matthew 2 as our textual source, we examine the visit of three wise men from the east looking to worship the King of Israel. They first sought Him in Jerusalem and King Herod met with them in secret asking them to return to him when they found the King of Israel so he too could worship Him. Herod was already a king and wanted no competition in ruling so when the wise men did not return, Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children age 2 and under in the area where the wise men had been sent. There is much more to this story so please do listen. And while listening ask yourself who or what rules you and your life. Is it Jesus or someone or something else? What steps do you take to keep Jesus from being the center of your life, the ruler of your life?
Paul addresses the church in Corinth about the resurrection of the dead in the times to come. The controversy is whether or not there will be a resurrection at the day of the LORD. Paul speaks of the resurrection of Jesus as the undeniable truth of a resurrection to come. After all, Paul argues, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then our faith is futile and we are still in sin.
Today, we still have that same choice to make - do we believe that not only is Jesus the son of God and that he paid the penalty for our sins but that he also raised from the dead. Make your choice -- death or Jesus.
Faith can be a driving force in one's life. It can drive you to seek, to find, to succeed. Belief sometimes is based upon seeing what faith can accomplish. Sometimes belief is not present but fear is. Jesus encountered both situations in short order on at least one occasion. First He is sought out by a ruler of a temple as the man's daughter is ill - near death. On the way to the ruler's house, a crowd is pressing in upon Jesus. In the crowd is a woman who has been ill for 12 years; she has heard of the miracles of Jesus and believes that if she can get close enough to just touch His garment then she will be cured. In the meantime, the ruler's daughter dies; Jesus tells the man not to fear but to believe. All in all quite an amazing story.
What is the level of your faith? How about your belief? Do you believe that just being in close proximity to Jesus will affect your life? Even after witnessing what Jesus can do, are you still struggling with fear of the unknown or is your belief strong?
Jesus casts out a demon and is accused of doing it by the power of Beelzebul (the prince of demons - AKA Satan). Well, Jesus goes on to explain why He is not casting demons out by the power of a demon. It just can not be as that would have demons against demons and that just does not happen. Why? Demons are united in a cause, a battle to defeat the kingdom of God. We all know how that ends, but some people just don't understand. Give a listen to what may be considered some fine print that you signed on for when you said "Yes, Jesus, I will follow you!".
Matthew 22 begins with Jesus telling a parable of a wedding feast to help the crowds understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. Many of us have all been guests at weddings; some of us have been participants in the wedding. So we know what a wedding is. But the wedding feast Jesus describes is not any ordinary wedding. Listen to this parabe and ask yourself who you are in this story. Are you the father who invites the guests? Are you the groom? Are you the bride? Or are you one of the invited guests? Did you accept the invitation or did you refuse?
This message uses Matthew 11:2-18 as its source. In this passage, John is in jail and sends his followers to Jesus to inquire if he (Jesus) is the one to come. Jesus responds with a reassuring answer to John and then speaks to the crowds asking what they had come to see. Jesus' words gave encouragement then and give encouragement today. Give a listen to learn what the crowds went to see. Do you see it in your life today?
Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who seeks to increase his wealth to the point where he needs to tear down his storehouse and build a new one. The problem is the man didn't consider everything that was necessary to support the wealth he was building. He didn't consider the foundation that he needed to lay for the new structure. He was a fool and in the end he lost his life perhaps because of this; but even if not because of this, he discovered that what he had built would not last forever because of the inadequate foundation.
What is the foundation you are building your life and legacy on?
Hezekiah was the king of Judah - the smaller kingdom resulting from the civil war within Israel. The Assyrian king had already conquered neighboring nations including Israel and much of the kingdom of Judah. He sent messengers to Jerusalem seeking its surrender. Hezekiah sought counsel from the LORD through the prophet Isaiah and was reassured that Jerusalem would not fall to the Assyrian king. When Hezekiah received the message from the Assyrian king, he immediately went to the temple and laid the message before the LORD -that is he went to the LORD in prayer. Let's listen to how hezekiah prayed and learn what happened to Jeresalem. Let's discover is such prayer would benefit us today.
We last saw Jesus heading for Bethany after delaying for two days and his disciples were concerned for Jesus' safety as well as theirs. We now find Jesus has arrived and Martha has run out to meet Him. She says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus replies "Your brother will rise again." A brief discussion of future events takes place; Martha runs to tell Mary that the teacher has arrived and is asking for her. Mary greets Jesus in a manner similar to Martha. The Jews who had gathered to console the sisters figure something is going on so they follow them.
Jesus instructs the stone to be rolled away from the tomb over the protests of Martha. He then prays loudly to His Father so that those present will know that the Father had sent Him. Finally Jesus shots for Lazarus to come out of the tomb and he does.
This message is one that deals with doubt, unbelief, and belief so that all present would have the chance to recognize who was in their midst. We have the same opportunity today. Have we recognized who Jesus is? Have we accepted Him? Do we proclaim His name and His gospel? How do we handle the doubts the devil may cause? Spend some time and listen to the message being delivered.
Jesus was a close friend of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He probably visited with them on numerous occasions so when Lazarus fell ill Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. Why? In all likelihood, they knew who Jesus was and believed that Jesus would heal their brother. When He heard about the illness, Jesus delayed returning as the hour had not arrived. When He was ready to return, His disciples feared for His life but they were determined to go with Him so they could die with Him. But remember, the hour had not arrived.
Jesus' first miracle was in many ways a foreshadow of what was to come. The miracle was turning water into fine wine at a wedding feast in Cana (in Galilee) on what appears to be the third day after Jesus called his first disciples to follow Him. This was only one marker of the future for Jesus and His church. Listen quite closely to other parallels to the final days of Jesus and what it means to His church as well as to you.
Have you ever desired a position of importance thinking that it would be as simple as asking for it? Two of Jesus' disciples thought they could just ask to sit on His left and right side when His Kingdom came. What they did not know was those seats were not Jesus' to give and even if they were there was a price that came with them. That price is suffering; suffering with Jesus and for Jesus. How much are you willing to bear for the KIng of Kings?
Moses, as a prophet of the LORD, spoke to Israel of the blessings God would bestow upon them for following Him and obeying His word, commands, and law as they entered into and lived in the land promised to Abraham. If Israel did not follow and obey, then the LORD would curse not only the land, but the people.
We then turn to the disciple John to learn how Jesus taught Israel about these promises made through Moses. We also look at how those lessons apply to us today in our day to day material life and spiritual life.
Ever needed some parental assistance or advice? Parents not available or nearby? Who do you turn to? Have you considered turning to the church? Yes, the Church. Not just your local congregation but the Church Universal; as Christians we have a huge family that is standing by ready to help whenever he or she can. Using Galatians 4 as a textual basis, this week we look at how the Church can function as our mother. Give a listen. Be Blessed.
Have you ever had a wonderful, delicious, satisfying meal and found yourself hungry, starving almost, within a couple of hours? Well similar things happened in Jesus' time. He fed a huge crowd with a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish. The crowds ate their fill and Jesus' closest disciples gathered the leftovers. The next day, Jesus had to explain to the crowd that He was the bread of life and what he had to offer would last forever unlike the manna of their ancestors. Talk about an unruly, ungrateful crowd.
Has much really changed since then? We know Jesus is the bread of life but do we understand it? Give a listen to see what has changed since Jesus' day and what hasn't. Pick up your bible and read John 6:22-59 for the textual basis. Be blessed.
Paul is one his way to Rome. In his letter to the Roman church prior to his finally getting to Rome, he writes about his longing to be there with them - to teach them, to encourage them, to fellowship with them, to love them. The first few lines of this letter speak all the work that Paul has done for Jesus and how much more he hopes - LONGS - to accomplish for Jesus. What was true for Paul is true for us today. Let's listen and learn together.
Life was, in some respects so much simpler then. Yet, in other aspects it was much the same as today. That is, the gospel has never changed. People have changed, but the gospel has not changed. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul gives instructions to Timothy to "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV)
We learn that the reason for being ready to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with patience and love is that, even in the early church, there were teachers who opposed the gospel of Jesus being preached and taught by Paul and the other apostles. Timothy was warned about one such individual. Listen in and see how we should treat such individuals today - spoiler alert, it comes down to how we are to treat our enemies and persecutors.
We will be looking at the early church over the next few weeks. This week with Philippians 2:25-30 as the textual basis, we look at the example of service, love, and honor demonstrated by Epaphroditus to Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. While it is not a long passage, we get a clear picture of how much Epaphroditus loved his brothers and sisters in Philippi yet he also loved Paul and went to care and provide for him in prison.
Many of us tell family, friends, neighbors, and others that we are going to church or have a church event, etc. What does this mean really? Beginning with a look at Jesus' prayer in John 17 and an in-depth look at Paul's letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7), we look at what really makes up a church -- the people, the bride of Jesus Christ.